Saturday, January 13, 2007

Debunking some of the 'other' Chase notions

Why just about every “other” idea for changing the Chase for the Nextel Cup is a bad one:
1. The “separate” system
This idea is that the drivers in the Chase should be treated separately from the rest of the field. The top Chase driver in each race, even if he finishes ninth behind eight non-Chase drivers, would get “first place” Chase points. The second best Chase guy would get the second most points, and so on.
Most people suggest a simple 10-9-8 (or 12-11-10 in a 12-man Chase) system. But it fails in two ways. First, it’s dumb. At Atlanta last year, Kyle Busch finished 27th overall but was ahead of three Chase drivers. So he would have gotten four points in a 10-9-8 system. The next week, Jeff Burton finished 10th overall at Phoenix, but ahead of only two drivers in the Chase. How is it fair for Burton to get fewer points for 10th than Busch got for 27th?
Second, it gives only the illusion of closeness. Going into Homestead last year, Jimmie Johnson would have been seven points ahead of Kevin Harvick. But that only sounds close. Harvick would have had 66 points after nine races, meaning he could only get to 76 by winning at Homestead. Johnson would have had to beat only three Chase drivers to get four points and get to 77. The number of points doesn’t matter, it’s how many you can make up.
2. Eliminating drivers
There are all kinds of suggestions for this, like cutting the Chase field to five drivers after five races, or eliminating the lowest guy after each Chase race so it’s down to two at Homestead.
No. No. No.
If you’d cut the field down at any point in 2006, Jimmie Johnson would have been eliminated.
Then, if he’d surged the way he did down the stretch, everyone would be complaining that he’s not winning the championship the way they did when Tony Stewart wasn’t in the Chase at all and won races.
Cutting one driver after each race is impractical. Do you reset everyone else after each race? That means the season comes down to who finishes ahead of whom at Homestead? A one-race championship? That makes no sense.
The arithmetic takes care of eliminating people. Everybody’s in the hunt through five or six races, but after that the list of people who have a shot narrows itself naturally. What’s the gain in arbitrarily forcing that to happen otherwise?
3. Big bonuses for every win
The whole reason to have a Chase is to try to keep the championship in doubt as long as possible. You might think that’s a bad idea, but it’s what NASCAR wants to do (and there are good reasons for that) and any Chase changes have to keep that in mind.
It would make it possible for a driver to make up more ground with a late Chase win if the bonus were 50 or even 100 points, but the likelihood that such bonuses would allow one driver to pull away early in the Chase is far greater. That defeats the purpose.
4. Do away with the Chase altogether
It never ceases to amaze me how much folks love the old points system now that it’s gone. I’ve actually had people tell me that the Chase hurts sponsors because they’re eliminated from title contention in September. Holy moly! Under the old system, by Labor Day it was usually down to two, three or maybe four teams in the hunt. Once in 20 years it might be five or six.
In the Chase, it’s ALWAYS 10 – and apparently will be 12 beginning this year – until at least the end of September. More teams, and therefore more sponsors, have more of a chance to be in the championship picture longer under the Chase than ever was the case under the old system.
If you think the Chase is hokey or a tricked-up way to pick a champion, you’re entitled to that opinion. But don’t tell me the old system was great, because my memory isn’t that bad.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you DP! This is a great commentary...

If I were Francear I'd give 10 more points for a win, but keep the chase at 10 and 400.

Vroom!

onebadwheel.com said...

I agree with you that none of those options seem valid. I just read your article on the 500 points for the first win. I hadn't heard that one before. Sounds pretty interesting since you say you've gone back and done some math to see how it works. I'm gonna chew on that one a while.

Anonymous said...

David,

No, the old system was not great, but it was preferable to this bogus playoff format.

As far as big bonuses for every win, you miss the point (sorry for the pun) that massive bonsues for all wins means the drivers have no choice but to go for the win every race. What you would thus get is the field would fight far harder to win because they'd have no other option. It thus is unlikely that a driver would be able to pull away, and even if a driver does pull away because he's winning races, that means that the championship is then based on actual performance, which is the truest gauge for a championship.

"In the Chase it's always ten drivers in the hunt for the championship." No, it isn't. Every Chase at least three drivers are eliminated in the first race and by the third race it's down to two drivers, with the insult that it is no longer possible for a driver to fall out of the top ten in points. The more teams and more sponsors argument treats the Chase as if it was like Talladega racing, and the fact is it isn't even 1/50th that competitive.

The Chase is a failure and the fact that NASCAR is debating serious alterations indicates the original idea is not working or tenable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the Chase is good for the end of the season.12 drives is worse than 10.500 points idea is good.If Nascar don't like the 500 point idea how about a "wildcard" for 3 wins in the regular season?
My main problem is with the racing.So many cautions & dead time & no green flag pitstops.I know lots of casual fans who just watch the last 30 laps.

Anonymous said...

LOL, put down the box of donut's David, first off if you want to keep calling this a play off then lets make it a god darned play off, put 15 cars into the stupid chase, after week one the last chase driver is eliminated, now you have 14 left, when you hit the last chase race you have 5 cars left to go for the title, guess what David, no one can sit back and just ride around like has happened under the old system and yes oh my god even under the new chase system why just look at Tony Stewart last year when he won, he choose to just drive around all day rather then race.

Now if one of the 5 wants to drive around let him, he won't win the title, and you know full well that there are going to at least 3 of those five who are going to run hard all day, that will force the other one or two to run just as hard if they want to have a shot of winning the cup.

As far as you crying about Jimmy Johnson would have been eliminated last year, so what, what makes you think he really deserved to win in the first place.

Put my system in place and you will see every chase car running for the front every race instead the way they points race under this current stupid format.

bonzo said...

In my opinion, NASCAR has a serious credibility problem fostered by these tweaks and changes to choosing a champion. Imagine if the NFL or any other sport continuously changed their playoff parameters. There is nothing that NASCAR can do to make a dent in improving the sport's "attendance" in the latter part of the season anyway as long as baseball and the NFL exist.

My family are relative newcomers to the sport - our first season of full time involvement was the year Dale Earnhart died. Since then it feels as if the tradition behind the sport is slowly being lost to corporate meddling.

Anonymous said...

If so-called "fans" don't like points racing, then perhaps NASCAR is not for them. There was no problem with the old points system. It served for decades, and NASCAR's growth during that time was unprecedented. I don't blame the new points system for NASCAR's declining ratings and the lack of interest, it's just the cumulation of all the greed and B.S that have destroyed it's integrity.

Bed made NASCAR, time to take a nap and watch some football.

Kurt Smith said...

Dave, I have a lot of respect for your work, but I agree with most of the posters here. If it was a good idea NASCAR wouldn't be tweaking it.

The old points system wasn't perfect but at least drivers raced to win rather than not to wreck. Surely you have noticed how careful drivers were in the last 15 races last year.

I hope you don't mind my shamelessly plugging my own blogspace, but I have much more to say on the subject and it should soon be in the Infield. It's just my opinion but I believe I have valid reasons for dumping the Chase.

Anonymous said...

I still like the idea of giving a bonus for the first win in the regular season and the playoff. And, I agree that if there's going to be a wildcard, it should be based on something like getting three wins in the regular season.

dochead3 said...

My only problem with the Chase is that the top 10 drivers are locked into the chase. I don't mind them adjusting the points after the first 26 races to make the chase closer points wise. But DO NOT lock drivers in or out of the chase. That way the drivers will have to continue to race hard to stay in the chase. If they do bad in a few of the last races.....they will drop out of the top 10. If the 12th place guy wins a couple of the last 10 races he may move up in the points. this will keep everyone racing all season long!!!

Anonymous said...

Points racing is like restrictor plate racing, BORING! It used to be that the fastest car won. Now it can be fuel mileage or "a what was that caution flag for" event. If you want to assign points, make sure you reward winners and punish those that aren't in the top 20. I also wish the cars looked like real cars. This "homogenized" racing is boring as well.

Anonymous said...

I am sure NASCAR can come up with a points system that will let Junior win one some day.

Anonymous said...

David,
You are exactly right on the Chase. I too ran the numbers for different point systems for the Chase. A seperate point system for Chasers is a big mistake (sorry Tony).

I think the points need to adjust more than just wins. The top five spots should have a greater points disparity over the rest of the field. I don't know how exactly it should be done.

As far as eliminating drivers each week during the Chase. Imagine how boring Loudon would be. 10 drivers simply hovering in the top 15 to ensure no crashes. What happens if this year's Talladega race eliminated drivers? Junior and Johnson face elimination because of another driver's actions. At least in the current model, drivers rightfully can overcome one or two bad races.

Whether you agree with David's thoughts, you have to at least respect them. Not every writer does research and or puts thought into an idea like he does.

Anonymous said...

I think NASCAR should go to a F1 style points system. F1 only gives points to the top 10 finishers. I say only give points to those that finish in the top 20. First place gets 89 pts, each place after that is 7 pts less, until 5th and then its 5 pts until 10th and then 4 pts until 15th and then 3 pts until 20th who gets 1 pt. Give 5 bonus pts to the pole winner and 5 pts to the one who leads the most laps. No other pts are awarded.

Anonymous said...

David,

As a true NASCAR fan since the early fifties, I have some ideas to offer if for no other reason than to initiate discussion. The ideas come from the experience of watching Grand National and then Cup racing since I jumped the fence at the Richmond Fairgrounds to watch Lee Petty win the first race there in 1953. I've watched many laps since those days.

Here goes.......


Suggestions for NASCAR Improvements…….

RACE:
The race purse for each race should include the prize money that is now included in the points fund paid at the end of the season.

The race purse should be set up so that the greatest percentage of the money goes to the top five finishers in each race. Positions six through forty-three would receive a decreasing amount. For a driver to increase his winnings, he would have to pass the car ahead of him. To really increase his winnings, he would have to finish in the top five.

Eliminate pit stops during caution periods. Clear the track and let them race. All pit stops should only occur during green flag racing.

Eliminate the "lucky dog" rule.

Award points for finishing position only. Award points for finishing positions one through thirty, decreasing by the same amount for each position down. Positions thirty-one through forty-three should be awarded the same amount of points for each of those positions.

SEASON:
Eliminate "The Chase".

Award the driver and team that has the highest points total at season's end with a really nice trophy awarded at a really nice awards ceremony. The championship would then become the honor for having the cumulative best finishing positions during the season.

As a result of adding the present end-of-season monies to the race purses, and distributing the greatest percentage of the purse to the top five finishers in each race, the incentive will be to finish as high as possible in each race. That, after all, is the objective of racing. The driver and team that ends up as the highest points winner will already collect the greatest amount of what is now the combination of race purse and season-end payout.

RESULT:
Better racing as all competitors will race hard to finish first, or as close as they can to first, at the end of each race.

Eliminate the need for a driver to take a badly damaged race car back on the track in an attempt improve a couple of spots in order to gain a few more points.

Pit stops only under the green flag would equalize the timing of pitting, eliminating the "bad luck" or "good luck" of pitting just before a caution or catching a caution at just the right time for a stop. Pit stops would occur for each team when the stop is needed instead of staying out, and staying out, waiting for a caution so as not to lose a lap. Laps would be lost because you got passed and the way to make up that lap is to pass others in front of you. No need for a "lucky dog". Green flag stops would also probably result in fewer cars in the pits at any given time. Safer pits. Safer racing.

The best argument for racing for a large purse, without the money incentive of points involved, is all of the hype surrounding the annual “Bud Shootout”, at Daytona, and the "Nextel" at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Drivers and teams go into each of these races, every man for himself, in an attempt to finish first in that one race. Now imagine the hype that would occur for every race during the season if most of the money for each race, and cumulatively for the season, was paid out to the top five finishers in each race.

The Championship trophy would be a great honor at the end of the season, but the money would be at the finish line at each race.

Thanx for listening.....

Anonymous said...

You are right on Dave but the problem lies with the commentary during the chase races. The other drivers are rarely shown nor mentioned ie crash, blown engine.
That's all that needs fixing.

Anonymous said...

The points system has nothing to do with Nascar's current problem with ratings. The problem is that Nascar has a bunch of boring drivers, specifically, all these snotnosed young drivers that the owners all fell over themselves to sign that no one is identifying with or gives a flip about.

Anonymous said...

In trying to be like the stick and ball sports, Nascar instituted the chase format(playoff system so they could be like everyone else) and now it has back fired on them. What appealed to race fans before the chase was the focus on racing and not on all this young gun and WWF type hype crap.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, post #15,

Green flag pitstops only? NASCAR did that in early 1991 and it was a crushing bore, as no one could race; all they did was ride around conserving their tires. Nobody can be that stupid as to advocate a return of that.

Starve the depth of the purse to front-end-load top-five winnings? NASCAR learned the hard way that it can't afford to do that as there needs to be enough earnings up and down the field to continue racing.

Why should there not be a decrease in points from 20th on down?

Also, what about most wins in the season? Shouldn't that count for the championship?

"You'd eliminate the need for a driver to take a badly damaged car bacxk onto the racetrack." You would?

"Pitstops under green only would ewqualize the timing of pitting." No it wouldn't; when NASCAR had that rule in 1991 NASCAR thought everyone would pit at the same time under green, except nobody bit; they all ran their own pit sequences and the result was a worthless competitive endeavor for everyone.

The sport needs better racing - so instead of the changes you recommend, front-end-load massive bonuses for wins and laps led; make performance count; leave no choice but to go for the lead no matter what lap it is.

Anonymous said...

Whatever is done, since qualifying is so important, we need to give 5 points for the pole, 3 for outside and 1 for starting 3rd. If you qualify outside the top 35, you should lose 1 point.

Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion:
For the first 26 races...
30 points for the winner
20 points for #2
10 points for #3
1 point for averyone else who took the green flag.
NO BONUS POINTS FOR ANYTHING.
Prize money. 1% of the prize for each point earned during the race.
After race 26 award the "fill in sponsor here" Cup to the guy with the most points.
For the last 10 races. Reset the points to 0, and run a chase with every team that won a race. Same point system. Send everyone else home to prepare for next season.

Anonymous said...

harref73, the pole is irrelevent - qualifying is treated as more important than it needs to be.